More Danish Oddities – linguistics

So I still don’t have Internet access at home.  Blogging, therefore, is just squeezing in between other things when I have the chance – so I hope my quick glimpses into life as an ex-pat in Denmark aren’t too spotty.

Surprisingly, some things are super easy to deal with, despite my earlier complaints.  But, IOIHMCPRN!  (If Only I Had My CPR Number! – Yes, I say it enough that it needs its own acronym.)

For instance, dealing with written Danish isn’t bad at all… you just need a quick handy guide to pronunciation:


Å = Oa (oar)
aa = oa (oar)
ej = i  (vine)
y = u
j = y
g = silent
d = l, but don’t dwell on it
l = l, but you can take your time saying it
ø = eu (like the french word for fire – feu)
r = back of the throat r.  It doesn’t exist in English.
a,e,i,o,u = take a guess (you’re probably not going to get it right anyhow)
q,w,x,z = haven’t actually met them in Danish yet.
b,c,f,h,k,m,n,p,s,t,v = about the same as English, just try to swallow them a bit, which makes it sound more Danish.

And with that, you can probably at least figure out a few things, for instance:

Streets here seem to end with -vej, -gade and allé. (Ignore that danish keyboards don’t actually have an “é” key for the moment.)

As far as I can tell, they are pronounced as “vi”, as if you’re saying vine, but ignoring the second half of the word, and as “alley” and “alley”.  I unfortunately pronounced -vej as “way” for the first few days I was here, but I think I’ve kicked that habit now.  And, figuring out that “gade” is alley required rewiring my brain.

If you ignore the proper pronunciation, however, it’s almost possible to pretend you’re reading really poorly written English…  like spending time online with 14 year olds.

So, all in all, it’s not too bad.  I just fear for when my colleagues will test me with the usual danish tongue twister: Rødgrød med fløde.  When that happens, Ignore all the rules above and run for your life!

Danish Weather in December

So this week is already off to a better start – we have clean clothes, bus tickets and even some food.  Things are looking up already.  (And, I’ve gotten in two days in a row without getting lost on the bus system!)

In any case, my comment for this morning – December in Denmark has three distinct types of weather:

  1. clear sky and blustery winds
  2. light rain with driving winds
  3. heavy rain with gale force winds

I have seen a few hours of the first type, but otherwise, it generally alternates between the 2nd and 3rd types.  Once you get used to it, it’s not too bad, but it does mean that umbrellas aren’t exactly useful…  though I have seen a few people use them as kites.  I’m debating taking up wind surfing as a new way to get to work. (-;

I still don’t have Internet at home, but thanks to some fantastic help from a colleague, it’s on it’s way.  Soon!

Moving to Denmark – week 1

I won’t lie… it’s been a rough week.

The first problem has been jet lag.  All week, I’ve been fighting it, but by getting as much sleep as possible, it’s becoming manageable.  However, I’ve been fortunate that I don’t crash till about 7pm…  just long enough to get through most of the day.

Unfortunately, Denmark has several factors working against people who want to move here.  The first is an institutional belief that Denmark is for Danes.  I suspect that attitude is the same wherever you go, with the exception of North America – but coming from Canada, where we’re always inclusive of new people, this is a pretty rough barrier to hit.

To be considered as a Dane, in the most marginal sense, you need to get a magic number – the CPR number.  Life can not begin until you have it.  Litterally.  You can’t get a phone, you can’t get internet, you can’t get anything, really.  Even visits to the doctor can be a challenge, as I’ve been told.   And, unfortunately, I still don’t have mine.  Apparently it’ll be mailed “soon”.  In the meantime, things are a challenge, to say the very least.  (We’ve borrowed an internet on a usb stick dongle from work, which hasn’t been reliable, but gives us some semblance of internet access, at times.)

There have been several other unexpected issues as well.  Having had a house “set up” for us before we arrived has been a huge help – but unfortunately, there are still great hurdles to overcome.  Houses in Denmark don’t come with several basic necessities that you would expect in other countries.  For instance, the house doesn’t come with curtains, a washing machine or dryer, a bathtub, or even light fixtures.  We’ve been loaned a few starter lights, but it’s somewhat like living in a decently outfitted cave… warm and somewhat dimly lit.  We’ve managed to walk to ikea (a 15 minute walk from our house – in 100km winds and blustery rain) to pick up a few basic necessities.  Unfortunately, that blew through a significant amount of the cash we’d expected to last till the end of the month…  meh.  Once we have our CPR numbers, we can work on getting a bank account and money, but till then, we’re flying by the seat of our pants, so to speak.

Every day tasks have also proven to be a challenge.  For instance, we’ve tried to do laundry this afternoon- but unfortunately, we’ve been completely stumped.  The communal laundry machines require a card – but it’s never been explained to us how to get a card, or who we should talk to about it.  I’ve been learning written Danish like mad, but I’m still not good enough to figure out some of the key concepts.  (I stole the notice from the laundry room that supposedly explains the process of getting a laundry card so that I could plug the text into google translate, but google isn’t quite sophisticated to explain whatever the notice says, and so I still have NO idea what it means. I’ll put the notice back when I walk the dog this evening…)

In any case, every little thing is a challenge when you don’t speak the language.  It’s starting to wear me down, really.

That’s not to say we aren’t making progress..  We discovered the asian shops this afternoon, and finally found some affordable food.  Even there, the food is about 3x what you’d expect in Vancouver, so the cost of living is clearly higher here.  We’ve taken to buying only what’s available on sale at the local Fotex…  a brief 6 minute walk to our house.  Unfortunately, shopping at a Fotex is about the same as walking into the Dollar store – the selection isn’t great, and everything costs about 25kronners – $5.  We did find a big bag of carrots for less – and so our diet has been heavily biased towards carrots this week.

Our biggest success today was managing to make the bus work for us – unfortunately, the bus that goes by  our house only trundles by twice per hour, a far cry from the every 8 minutes I’ve been used to on the local busses in Vancouver.  But, unlike my attempt on friday, we managed to get off at the right place!  Progress, indeed!  (Don’t ask about friday – all I’ll say is that I turned a 45 minute walk to work into an hour long trip by trying to take the bus.  It was memorable for all the wrong reasons.)

Overall, the first week has been rough, demoralizing and unending challenge… more or less par for the course, I suppose.

The highlight of the week has been the friendly people at work – and unfortunately, my wife doesn’t have the same escape as I do.

What can I say… week one is nearly done.  Here’s to hoping week two gets better!

The gift.

Denmark and our preparations for it are driving me around the bend this morning (about which I’ll undoubtedly rant later), so I’m distracting myself by packing and taking care of errands – and making bacon, which I hear is not crispy in Europe.  (Thanks for the heads up @enniscath and @eskay8)

In any case, one thing I wanted to start doing is posting more pictures of this adventure – so I thought I’d share a few from my pets wearing a sweater – a gift from someone who should know better.  (thanks Lynette!)  we put them on a couple nights ago, when it came back from Toronto with me.

Anyhow, It’s cruel, and I don’t believe in making animals wear clothes, but it’s too good a picture not to share.  The cat (Ollie) actually looks like he’s cooperating.  And Ollie never cooperates with anyone about anything.  I think it’s the box, which mellowed him and took off the edge.   The dog, unfortunately, is a bit less cooperative:

Both pets are somewhat oblivious to the changes that are happening this weekend, and I suspect the sweater threw them off the sent…  they’ve both so happy not to be wearing it that they’re not complaining too much about the other changes going on.  All in all, mission accomplished. (=